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Cleveland Teachers Set Date to Strike Over Merit Pay, Evaluations

Without a contract in hand, Cleveland teachers say they intend to strike. The potential walkout comes after years of wrangling between the district and the union over a merit-pay system called for by a 2012 state law. That law created the Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools, which was meant to overhaul the city's long-struggling public schools.

On Monday, the Cleveland Teachers Union's executive board unanimously approved the strike, which is set to begin at 6:00 p.m. on September 1. Ohio law requires unions to provide at least a 10 day notice of their intention to strike. The executive board's action comes after a May vote in which a whopping 97 percent of voting rank-and-file members authorized the union's leadership to call for a strike. The union is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

"It is our hope that the CMSD [Cleveland Metropolitan School District] and the Mayor will commit to using the next two weeks to resolve the contract," Cleveland Teachers Union president David J. Quolke said in a statement. "It is essential that we invest in our schools and in our students, and we provide more, not fewer opportunities for students; and it is essential that we settle this contract and begin working to pass the Cleveland school levy."

The levy Quoike is referring to is the potential renewal of a tax increase that Cleveland voters last approved in 2012. 

As Teacher Beat guest blogger Alyssa Moron reported back in 2013, the union and district inked a three-year contract that instituted a "differentiated compensation" system and tied teacher evaluations to students' test scores. Under the new pay scale, teachers could receive raises for a number of reasons, including special training or qualifications they earned or their scores on the new teacher-rating system in which students' test scores accounted for 50 percent of a teacher's mark. According to an arbitrator's report, however, the district has only been giving raises based on those annual evaluations

"There is no dispute that, in the intervening years, CDCS (Cleveland Differentiated Compensation System) has floundered at best and in other aspects the District has failed altogether to implement the system," wrote Mollie H. Bowers. "Neither time nor resources have been expended to build out the system. As a consequence, the District lost the opportunity to lead the country with respect to innovation where compensation systems are concerned; an opportunity that has now been picked up elsewhere."

Union president Quolke told The Plain Dealer that the union is just fighting for what was called for under the Cleveland Plan.

"We have an over-reliance on using these standardized tests to evaluate teachers," he said. "Money's really not the issue at the table. It's how we are living up to the promise of the Cleveland Plan."

The district doesn't challenge the charge that the compensation plan is incomplete, according to The Plain Dealer, but lays some of the blame at the feet of the union. The 2013 contract called for the union and district to work together to hammer out the final details of the new pay scheme.  

"At no point did they say WE failed to come to an agreement on compensation," District CEO Eric Gordon told The Plain Dealer. "It's both [of] our failure. It's not the district's broken promise. It's the district and CTU's broken promise."

The district also contends that it has implemented other ways for teachers to earn more money, through one-time stipends, in addition to the teacher-rating system.


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